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Antibody therapy helps young girl with rare disease recover from COVID-19

The treatment is meant for those with health conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, like 14-year-old Tara Sweet.

There are currently about 530 people in Michigan hospitals for COVID-19, and despite the popular theory that children aren't affected, some of those hospitalized are in fact kids. 

A young COVID-19 survivor and Spectrum Health officials want the community to know more about a treatment that helps some people recover from the virus.

It's the beginning of summer break for Tara Sweet, and she's already looking forward to the start of ninth grade. But just over a month ago, the 14-year-old's future seemed more uncertain. 

She tested positive for COVID-19 during a routine test for her volleyball team. She says she was shocked when she found out because she didn't have any symptoms at first.

"A few days after, I got stuffy and after that, I couldn't smell anything," Tara says.

Her symptoms were mild at first, but Tara's mom Kristy got worried once her daughter started feeling short of breath because Tara was born with a rare disease called Muckle Wells Syndrome.

"She's on a medication that suppresses her immune system," Kristy says. "So getting COVID-19, I wasn't sure how sick she'd get considering her immune system couldn't fight as well as others."

That's when her doctors stepped in and recommended monoclonal antibody therapy. The treatment is meant for those with health conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 

"Monoclonal antibodies are a protein and what it does is attaches to the COVID-19 virus and decreases the ability of the virus to enter the human cell, therefore causing disease," Jodi Mienke says. 

Mienke says that emergency use authorization of the treatment has allowed Spectrum Health to treat more than 900 people. Tara is one of 11 pediatric patients to get the one-time infusion. Within days, she felt better.

"I smelt the chicken that we were having for dinner and I said 'Dad, my smell is back!'" she says. "If I wouldn't have got it, I don't know if I'd still have symptoms. I think it helped me get back to what I was before."

Tara is getting ready to hit the volleyball court again, and her family wants to make sure others out there know about and have a chance to get the treatment. 

"I'd say to parents 'Pray about it. If it's what needs to be done God will lead you through,'" Kristy says. 

Meinke says use of monoclonal antibody therapy has recently expanded and she encourages anyone who's recently tested positive for COVID-19 and is interested in the treatment to reach out to Spectrum Health.

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